Psst… Do You Want to Know a Secret?
Amazon’s Alexa Has Some Answers to Questions You Probably Don’t Even Know to Ask.
Alexa is a top-selling gadget for Amazon, and the list of things it can do is ever increasing. Most people who use Amazon Alexa ask the same things over and over -but this virtual assistant can answer a lot of questions you’d never think of. Plus, with new “Skills” (commands) being added all the time, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
But first, a little about Alexa for those of you who aren’t familiar with its capabilities.
Alexa is the cloud-based brain behind the Echo speaker. It’s a “virtual assistant” capable of voice interaction. You can ask Alexa to make to-do lists, set alarms, stream podcasts, play audiobooks and music, and provide other real-time info like weather, traffic, and news. Alexa can also control smart devices in your home if you install the Skills for them. However, unlike mobile-based virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Alexa is a dedicated, in-home device.
Here’s a basic list of what Alexa can do.
- Answer questions: Alexa can find facts for you, calculate mathematics, look up terms, make conversions or even tell a joke.
- Report the latest headlines and sports news: It can give you a brief about what’s in the news with audio clips that go along with it.
- Let you know about the current traffic or what the weather will be: Alexa can read the latest weather forecast in your area, or in other locations, plus it can inform you about the most recent traffic accidents or incidents that may slow down your commute.
- Stream music: Just ask Alexa to play your favorite album in your Amazon Prime Music Library. Alexa can also access music services like Pandora and Spotify, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.
- Set an alarm: You can ask Alexa to set a recurring alarm to wake you up in the morning or let you know when the chicken in the oven is done based on your commands.
- Control your smart home devices: Alexa is compatible with devices like Philips Hue and Lifx smart bulbs, Belkin WeMo smart switches, Internet-connected thermostats like the Ecobee3 and the Emerson Sensi, and home platforms like Wink, Insteon, and SmartThings.
- Order products from Amazon: Order anything you would via your computer online such as household items you typically reorder. Alexa can even track your orders.
Now that you’ve got the basics covered, here are some fun questions you can ask Alexa.
(Remember to say “Alexa” before you ask the question.)
Education and Trivia
Whether you’re curious about when Napoleon was born, how to translate a term from Spanish to English or if you want a trivia fact, Alexa can inform you. Here are some fun questions to ask:
- How do you say where’s the bathroom in [language]?
- How long is the Appalachian Trail?
- What’s the closest airport to [location]?
- What time is it in [city]?
- What is the capital of [state or country]?
- How high is Mt. Everest?
- How old is the oldest person alive today?
- What’s the meaning of life?
- What day will the 4th of July be on in the year 2025?
- What is the mass of Pluto in grams?
- What’s the weather going to be in New York City this weekend?
- What time is Delta flight 162 landing in Atlanta?
- What time is it in Paris?
- How many liters are in a gallon?
- How many ounces in a pound?
- What is the conversion rate between the US dollar and Canadian dollar?
- What is the latest medal count from the Winter Olympics?
- Who had the best batting average last season?
- What are last season’s standings for the NFL?
- Who’s winning the [team’s] baseball game today?
- When does [team] play next?
- What temperature should I cook the turkey at?
- Start a timer for 30 minutes for the biscuits.
- How many calories are in a Golden Delicious apple?
- How many minutes are left on my timer?
- How many ounces are in 3 cups?
- How many tablespoons are in 1 cup?
- Is the [store] pharmacy in [city] open right now?
- What are the hours for [business]?
- How far away is the Walmart in [city]?
- What time does [restaurant] open?
- Find my phone. Call [number].
- Buy paper towels on Amazon.
- Add milk to my shopping list.
- Will it snow today?
- How many inches of snow will we get today?
- What will the weather be like on Friday?
- What is the weather in Boulder, Colorado today?
- How many inches of rain did we get in [city] yesterday?
- Play Happy Birthday.
- Play light rock.
- Play [album].
- Play country music.
Alexa’s easter-egg commands will make you laugh.
- Beam me up
- High five
- Play rock scissors, paper.
- Tell me a Star Trek joke.
These are just some of the things Alexa can do with its built-in commands. You can enable so much more by adding Skills to Alexa. For example, you can download a Skill from Domino’s Pizza, so Alexa can order a pizza with your favorite toppings. Or, download an Uber Skill, so you can ask Alexa to schedule a pick up for you. Download an app from Capital One, and Alexa can help you with financial management. You can also use the Alexa app on your smartphone to download additional Skills. Alexa can handle over 15,000 Skills, and the list is growing all the time.
Most are free to enable. Just go to Amazon and look under Alexa Skills to find them. Here are some that may interest you:
Cooking, Food and Drink: All Recipes, Save the Food, Bartender, Ingredient Sub, Anova Precision Cooker, Beer Calculator, Meat Thermometer, Best Recipes, Meal Idea
Fitness: 7-Minute Workout, 5-Minute Plant Workout, Fitbit, Track by Nutritionix, Guided Meditation
Entertainment: Radio Mystery, Short Bedtime Story, This Day in History, Valossa Movie Finder, Jeopardy
Finance: Capital One, Opening Bell, TD Ameritrade, Cryptocurrency Flash Briefing
Productivity: Giant Spoon (marketing), Quick Events (calendar)
Weather: Big Sky, Feels Like, Fast Weather
Travel: Kayak, Uber, Lyft, Airport Security Line Wait Times
Skills for Kids: Sesame Street, The SpongeBob Challenge, Amazon Storytime, NASA Mars, 1-2-3 Math, Word of the Day, This Day in History
Skills for Seniors: Senior Portal, VoiceFriend, EngAGE Workout, AARP Now News
It’s a good idea to check regularly to see what’s new with Amazon’s Alexa because she’s getting smarter all the time!